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Penn Wins Defensive Battle, 69-54

Tamara Simpson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Tamara Simpson. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Coming off one of the biggest wins in recent history -- a 73-59 victory over Princeton Friday night -- the Yale women's basketball team had little chance to celebrate. Saturday evening brought a visit to Lee Amphitheater from the Penn Quakers, who have won the last two Ivy League titles and had held five of their last six opponents to less than 60 points. The Bulldogs held their own against the Quakers offense for much of the night, but could not solve Penn's defense. The visitors eventually pulled away for a 69-54 win.

The loss snapped Yale's winning streak at two, meaning the Bulldogs still have not won more than two games in a row since a four-game streak in early December. It also represented a frustrating end to a weekend that started with great promise, as Friday's win was the Bulldogs' first over the Tigers since 2009.

"That's the million-dollar question, why we couldn't do it two nights in a row," said Guth. "I think a lot of people evaluate the second back-to-back game [of the weekend] in the Ivy League and they say it's the team who wants it more, because you really left a lot on the floor the night before. I actually disagree. I think the team who has the will to execute is the team that's going to win. The team that has the will to do their jobs every single time. And we were just not paying attention to detail tonight."

Penn (13-5, 4-1 Ivy League) certainly knew not to underestimate the Bulldogs, who handed the Quakers their only Ivy League loss last season. Friday's Yale win vs. Princeton made it even more clear that the Bulldogs are capable of knocking off teams at the top of the Ivy League standings. And after a three-pointer by senior guard Tamara Simpson three minutes into the game Saturday, Yale (10-9, 3-3 Ivy League) had a 7-2 lead.

On a day when Penn had an answer for seemingly every Yale run, guard Lauren Whitlatch got the Quakers started on a 14-5 run to close out the first quarter by hitting a three-pointer -- one of five threes for the day for her, en route to a team-high 18 points.

Senior guard Mary Ann Santucci cut Penn's lead to one with a three-pointer for the Bulldogs early in the second, but another Quakers run extended the lead to 29-20 heading into halftime. Yale shot just 2-for-18 in the second quarter.

Six points from senior forward Jen Berkowitz and three steals by Simpson in the third quarter helped the Bulldogs keep the Quakers within reach, but Penn still entered the fourth up 49-37. Yale got no closer than that in the fourth, as a 14-4 run by Penn in the first five minutes put the game out of reach.

Simpson led the Bulldogs in scoring with 11 points, adding four steals. Berkowitz finished with 10. Sophomore forward Megan Gorman led the Bulldogs with seven rebounds.

The Bulldogs did have some highlights defensively, including holding Penn's top two scorers -- center Eleah Parker and forward Michelle Nwokedi -- to six and eight points, respectively. But Yale was hurt by Penn's 48-32 rebounding advantage, which translated into 28 second-chance points for the Quakers.

"I don't think there's a ton of going back to the drawing board other than just getting it done in practice, holding our kids accountable," said Guth. "I believe we're a better team than what we showed tonight."

Saturday's game was a fundraiser for the Go4TheGoal Foundation. Go4TheGoal's mission is "to improve the lives of children battling cancer by providing financial support, developing and implementing unique hospital programs, funding innovative research, and granting personal wishes."  Both teams wore yellow shoelaces as part of the event.

Yale travels to Columbia next Friday.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity